Works of visual art and design are ubiquitous in our lives. Look at the objects around you, and consider how many of them were created, at least in part, by an artist or designer. The work of artists and designers goes well beyond paintings and sculpture—it includes the chair you are sitting on, the fork you will eat dinner with, and the shoes on your feet.
The artists and designers in this lesson represent a broad range of time periods and cultures. Designers are problem solvers, inventors, and skilled technicians; they express the complexity of human experience in their times, communicate ideas, fulfill practical needs, and challenge us to stretch our own views. This lesson offers students the opportunity to analyze, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate art and design within a work’s social, cultural, and historical contexts.
Students will be encouraged to look closely at a single object or to compare works, to shift their attention from details to the whole, and to synthesize observations of the object with the broader context that produced it. The questions and activities prompt students to consider and ask thoughtful questions about making, use, and meaning in relation to the objects presented and those of students’ own contemporary worlds. Engaging with these objects will build students’ abilities to communicate about art and design; to reflect, analyze, and evaluate works; and to make connections between the visual arts and other disciplines.
Highlighted here are key objects you can use to generate in-depth investigations. Appropriate for an entire class or for small-group or self-guided learning, each object is accompanied by relevant information, possible discussion questions, and suggestions for writing, making, and doing. You can choose a single artifact or a sequence of works; project or print out images; learn about one object for a presentation or to lead a discussion; and choose or customize discussion questions and activities that address your teaching goals and learning objectives.